National Education Reform in Indonesia:
Milestones and Strategies for the Reform Process

Dr. Ella Yulaelawati
Ministry of National Education, Indonesia


In this 21st century, Indonesian live in a world, which is intensely worrying, yet full of promise for the future. It is a world of rapid changes, marked by economic crisis, information flood through multimedia, destabilization of harmony between local and global cultures, unhelpful onslaught of modern technology on the natural environment, and unsupportive strike of knowledge-based economy on traditional, low-educated or unskilled workers, and of course an implementation of a regional autonomy.

Conditions in Indonesia are changing rapidly. Teachers, parents and children face those changes in their everyday life including in schools. Therefore, our students need to learn how to live and to cope with complexity, uncertainty, and diversity. Students face a diversity of experience of different cultures - from the diverse ethnic groups in our society and from technologically and globally driven changes to our culture. Expansion of communication and information technologies leads to a competitive world that increases a necessity of high qualification and skilled employees. Thus, a teacher will no longer be a single expert of knowledge in a classroom. Electronic learning and virtual class provide ready access to support student learning.

Education plays a significant role in the lives of children as they grow and develop. Education prepares young Indonesian people to make the transition to an independent adult life. If Indonesian wants access to the benefits of the knowledge economy and has a democratic country of the future, education has to ensure achievement of high competencies and strong character or the school leavers.

The costs for education of the transition to a knowledge economy and a democratic society include building new skills and attitudes needed for work and a social life in the information age. Providing a foundation for lifelong learning, character building, problem solving and critical thinking and developing the flexibility to manage change are key factors for curriculum reform. Consequently, learning activities have to contribute to the foundations for a skilled workforce confident in its ability to compete in future global markets.

The consequent of regional autonomy for education is a district-based education planning, management and quality assurances. This is not a simple shift from a centralized to a decentralized educational planning and practices. A well-prepared and well-informed district-based education system is not yet being established. However, there is a possibility of controlling our destiny and shaping our lives for better through national education reform.

The most promising aspect in the national education reform is the enhancement of national education system to become a powerful and charismatic social structure that ensures the development of a good quality of Indonesian citizen. Milestones of the reform consist of equity and justice for education, learning reform, management reform, empowering community participation, and information technology (IT). The implementation of these milestones are implemented in the following nine strategies: Implementation of educational autonomy management,

1. Implementation of compulsory education,
2. Development of competency based curriculum,
3. Implementation of open education system,
4. Improvement of professional development,
5. Development of 'educating' school facilities and learning resources
6. Fair and justice educational finance system
7. Empowering community participation, and
8. Implementation of assessment and accreditation system which empower students for better quality of learning.

For the purpose of the First International Forum Educational Reform, I will focus my presentation on the development of competency-based curriculum.

A. Historical background on Indonesian education reform

The present system of educational reform and practice cannot be detached from its historical contexts. The development of Indonesian modern people is intermingled by the restoration efforts in replacing the loss of valuable traditional values, gaining national economy and developing science and technology. Here the process of educational reform is a complex one. The main priority for the educational reform is validation because of the heterogeneous local conditions. Infrastructure and economic development are unevenly distributed. Some interiors especially of eastern islands of Indonesia are still living in the very poor conditions; therefore implementation of unified centralized solutions in educational reform will vary in different areas.

Historically, prior to the rule of Europeans, education for people throughout the archipelago was relatively simple. Children learned from parents or their elders to gain the practical skills needed to survive. Cultivating fields, weaving cloth, and building houses, cooking, and catching fish are examples of the skills, which had been learned by the children without formal instructions. However, very highly specialized lessons were given to children of the aristocracy to instruct them in music, dancing, religion and traditional leadership. Education mutated from domestic practices for peasantry to the more structured padepokan (non-religious learning center) in parallel with court education for royal families. In the latter, these systems combined with Islamic elements shifted padepokan to become pesantren (Islamic learning center) and Christian schools. Later, Indonesianisation was introduced by encouraging the use of the Indonesian language. This whole legacy of history contributes to the rich contexts of the present education system.

Educational reforms in Indonesia from 1947 up to 1977 were closely linked to social and political reasons in the reaffirmation of inculcating ideology and beliefs. The first educational planning was designed in 1947, this planning was further revised in 1952. The reform was aimed at meeting the need of a newly independent country and a rural society. Developing patriotism became the priority in this planning. Explanation of natural phenomena, cultivation of aesthetics and eradication of superstition and violence were among the goals of primary education. The system functioned to inculcate particular values and beliefs thus; the development of science and technology had less concentrated.

The emphasis on national ideology was concentrated in the sixties. The reform was predominated by political disturbance situations. The development of citizenship ideals and values of Pancasila were the main interest in the 1964 curriculum reform. The development of Bahasa Indonesia as a national language and the preservation of Indonesian heterocultures situation were also emphasized. A bias of curriculum materials was recognized not only related to colonial heritage, but also to remedy an impact of Java centrism (Jasin, 1987). Four years later, at the 'new-order' government, the emphasis on ideology was more significant. Developing 'Pancasila identity' became the priority in the curriculum of 1968. Focus of the curriculum was meeting the need of rural society, recognition of the paramount importance of vocational skills and further education.

In 1975, curriculum reform placed the significance of science and technology development. This reform resulted in the 1975 curriculum, which was the most overloaded and overdose, heavy contents and very objective exams oriented. These influenced by instructional design paradigm, which heavily relies on objectives, instruction and evaluation. The 1984 reform attempted to simplify all of them. The recent reform of 1994 incorporates technology through problem-solving, critical thinking, and inquiry skills into classroom practice. In this reform nine years compulsory basic education is implemented and the importance of human resource development as an economic actor is emphasized.

B. Contexts of Education Reform

Through years of effort, Indonesia has achieved almost compulsory of education at the primary level (six years). At present, about 94.4 % (28.3 million) of the age cohort is enrolled in national primary schools. The enrollment number, however, is low for junior secondary school (54.8% or 9.4 million), much lower for senior secondary school (31.5% or 5.3 million), and very low for tertiary education (11.6% or 2.9 million).

In addition, support and services for early childhood education are still limited. There are about 11.3 million children of 4-6 years of age that need to be supported to have pre-primary education. The delay on early childhood education development would deny the quality improvement of human resources.

Data on special education indicates that support on this group has to be enhanced. Furthermore, data on non-formal education shows that about 17 million people are functional illiterates and about one million of children age 7-12 years is drop outs from primary schools.

The problem of Indonesia National Education System is also evident from a number of recent international studies and comparisons. Indonesia's 12- and 13-year old students has very low performance (Number 32 for science and 34 for mathematic) in Mathematics and Science in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) that participated by 41 countries.

C. Reasons for Reform

There are several significant reasons that indicate necessity of education reform. First, are education access and its implication for improving quality of life. As it is indicated in the contexts of education reform, Indonesia has not fully accomplished universal education at the primary and the secondary levels even though basic education has been improve to 9 years and made compulsory. The dropout rate for each Primary school is also high. The Government is concerned that children who are not enrolled in schools are not being equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to be productive citizens in the knowledge age. Education has to support economic growth and promote sense of integration of Indonesian archipelago. In Indonesia, education plays an important role to increase individual income, therefore relevancy of education need to be improved.

Second, is preparing young generation for the knowledge age. The Government recognizes that education is the most effective long-term solution to achieve national development and stability for the nation, to promote diverse local culture and customs by broadening common core elements in curriculum. In addition, education has to prepare young generation to participate in local, national and global economies. In order to prepare young generation to live in knowledge-based economy and democratic society, the youth should have more engagement in building new skills and attitudes needed for work and a social life in the knowledge. Consequently, reform on learning is crucial for providing a foundation for lifelong learning, character building, problem solving and critical thinking; and developing flexibility to manage change. Curriculum reform has to contribute to the foundations for a skilled workforce confident in its ability to compete in future global markets.

Third, is the need to develop information technology (IT). Up to this moment Indonesia has yet not a clearly insisted on the use of information technology (IT) in its educational policy. The provision of computers and peripherals to schools and IT training for teachers and students are very limited. Because of the knowledge age, IT development has to become a national agenda for education reform despite of our scarcity of resources.

Four, is implementation regional autonomy. Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 22, 1999, concerning Regional Administration stipulates authority of the regions. Article 7, verse 1 of Law No.22, 1999, states that authority of regions includes authority in all governmental sectors, except authority in foreign policy, defense and security, the administration of justice, monetary and fiscal, and religious affair. The consequent of regional autonomy for education is a district-based education planning, management and quality assurances. This is not a simple shift from a centralized to a decentralized educational planning and practices. The government needs to provide a well-prepared and well-informed district-based education system.

Fifth, is improving madrasahs. The quality of Madrasahs or Islamic religious schools which is part of Indonesian national education system is, in general, lower than regular schools. Besides offering Islamic religious education, madrasahs also provide instruction based-on national curriculum. The national education system has to be reformed in order to include issues on madrasahs education which is held under the Ministry of Religious Affair (MORA).

Finally is moral development. Fundamentally, education is about nurturing the whole person. A holistic education encompasses moral, cognitive, physical, social, and esthetic aspects of personal development. In the knowledge age the students need to learn how to be life-long learners, be independent thinkers and innovators. At the same time, students in Indonesia come from different ethnicity, local languages, cultures, customs and religions. They go to schools and share a common experience of growing up together, studying together, playing together, and singing the national anthem together. Although these are precious life experiences which help in building emotional ties, identification, and a sense of commitment to one another as Indonesian citizens, the student needs to value their differences and learn how to live together with their different interests. The development of moral education also needs to include aspects of clean government and good governance.

D. Pertinent Laws and Policies of National Education System

The national education system in Indonesia is based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. Pancasila, the five principles of Indonesian ways of life, is the philosophical bases of the Indonesian State. It consists of two words, Panca means five and Sila means principle. The five principles of Pancasila are:

1. Belief in the Supreme God;
2. Just and civilized humanity;
3. The unity of Indonesia;
4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising
out of deliberations among representatives;
5. Social justice for the whole people of Indonesia.

Therefore, philosophically, education in Indonesia can be broadly defined as a means to develop Indonesians whose daily conduct reflects the integrity of the Pancasila principles.

Educational right is stipulated in the 1945 Constitution, legal arrangements are explained further in educational law, presidential and ministerial decrees. Every citizen is entitled to an education and the government is responsible to provide a national system of education for the people; these are stipulated in Article 31 of the 1945 Constitution (UUD, 1945). Thus by the 1945 Constitution, the government is obliged to promote the intellectual life and national culture of the people.

In 1989, Indonesia had successfully reformed its education by launching Law of The Republic of Indonesia Number 2, 1989 on The National Education System (NESL,1989). The landmarks of the reform are in the following:

1. Articulation of rights of citizens to obtain education regardless sex, religion, ethnicity, race, social status and level of capacity; and to be treated in accordance with her/his talents and interests.
2. The improvement of compulsory education from six to nine years basic education.
3. Decentralization of curriculum with provision of local content and adjustment of national content to local situation, environment and needs.
Establishment of the National Education Advisory Board.

According to NESL,1989, Article 3, "[the] National Education is intended to develop ability and to improve the quality of life and the dignity of Indonesian man in the effort to realise the national development objectives" (Department of Education and Culture - DEC, 1991, p. 4). The aim of national education is articulated in Article 4 as follows:

The National Education is aimed at elevating the intellectual life of the nation and to develop the complete Indonesian man, i.e. one who is devout and God fearing, with high morality, possessing knowledge and skill, who is physically and mentally healthy, who is of stable personality, independent and has a deep sense of responsibility towards the society and the nation (National Education Law No. 2 of 1989, Article 4, DEC, 1991, p. 4).

The education system also strives to create a patriotic spirit, strengthen love for the fatherland, enhance the nation spirit, social solidarity and awareness of history and national heroes, and create forward-looking attitudes. Creativity, innovative thinking, and future-orientation are expected to be generated by teaching and learning processes in order to achieve self-confidence, 'learning culture', independent or autonomous learning (Ministry of Education and Culture - MOEC, 1995).

Despite the almost perfect national education aim in the Law of The Republic of Indonesia Number 2, 1989 on The National Education System, this Law does accommodate these following aspects:

Enhancement of national education system to become a powerful and charismatic social structure that ensures the development of a good quality of Indonesian citizen.

1. Principles of education for all and all for education.
2. Regional autonomy and district-based education management as indicated by Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 22, 1999, concerning Regional Administration
3. Greater involvement of community, and
4. The inclusion of democratic principles in education.

E. Formation of the Committee on Education Reform

There is an institution that functions to involve the community in decision making process in education, this is called as The National Education Advisory Board (NEAB). However to include more independent groups and greater participation of the community, The Minister of National Education established National Commission of Education Reform (NCER) and Committee of Educational Reform (CER). The NCER is responsible to bring together a long term national vision of education. The NCER has to submit a national report to the Minister concerning a broad and long term concepts, vision and mission of education which is written based on current conditions and scenarios of the future. However, the Committee of Educational Reform (CER) which was set up in February 2001 responsible for more operational, technical, and situational tasks comprises of academic paper, draft of the propose education Law and government regulation, and policy paper. Basically the CER has to study whether Law of The Republic of Indonesia Number 2, 1989 on The National Education System (NESL, 1989) should be improved, and if so, what form and timeline it should take.

The Committee of Educational Reform was set up to recommend whether NESL,1989, should be improved and if enhanced, what form of the propose Law it should change. In doing so, the Committee will examine:

How NESL, 1989, implementation could contribute to:

1. Fulfillment of human rights
2. Democratic education
3. Decentralization
4. Learning reform
5. Management reform
6. Development of new Indonesian national identity and integration
Knowledge-based economy
7. Development of information and communication technology, and
community-based education;

The appropriate balance of responsibility between regional and central government as the implication of Law of The Republic of Indonesia Number 22, 2001 on the Regional Autonomy. The views of the different communities on education reform by polling, dialogues on TV and other electronic media, consult with communities, government and non-government organizations and people assembly;

1. The required framework for education reform include examination of past trends and future educational needs of Indonesia with its diverse social, economic and geographical environment, introducing new elements and timeline; and
2. The experience of other countries which have recently reformed their education by examining relevant and useful adaptation to the Indonesian context.

F. Review and Consultation Process

The Committee adopted a multi-channel approach in eliciting feedback from the public. The Committee held meetings within the Ministry of National Education, other relevant ministries and institutions, Ministry of Law, people representatives, universities, non-government organization, prominent public figures, community leaders, interest groups and members of the public through a series of discussion sessions in order to gather the views of education reform.

The Committee met four times per week and held dialogue/feedback /review sessions with various groups and individuals for about nine months from February to December 2001. The Committee has now completed draft of academic paper and draft of proposed educational law and its government regulation. The committee is supported by substantial team.

G. The Strategy of Implementation Education Reform

There are nine strategies for implementation of education reform. These strategies are designed in order to realize educational vision, mission, and objective. The nine educational development strategies, namely the following:

1. The implementation of educational autonomy management,
2. The Implementation of compulsory education,
3. The development of competency based curriculum,
4. The implementation of open education system,
5. The improvement of professional development,
6. The provision of educational school facilities and learning resources,
7. Fair and justice educational finance system
8. Empowering community participation, and
9. The implementation of assessment and accreditation system which empower students for better quality of learning.

In this paper, I would focus on the development of competency-based curriculum. Indonesia needs to reform its national curriculum and evaluation in order to raise educational standards across the nation. Higher standards in education will contribute to the growth of a peaceful, democratic, cooperative and competitive society, and so to the welfare of all Indonesian citizens.

For the first time, the reformed curriculum will establish standards for students' learning through the grades of national schooling. Parents will know how well their children are performing by comparison with others across the nation. Schools will be able to evaluate and report on their efforts in reaching the standards.

National standards will enable the introduction of a curriculum that incorporates the diversity required by the 1999 State Guidelines of the Government of Indonesia. The national standards provide a framework that gives overall unity to the curriculum. The curriculum can then accommodate the diverse range of educational facilities, cultures and students' abilities found throughout the nation and the education system.

Moral education needs to be strengthened. The Indonesian curriculum has always emphasized moral education as part and parcel of our national identity. But this is a period of social change, within Indonesia and in the global society that increasingly influences all nations. Moral education must meet these and future challenges.

Global changes also have a profound influence on the economies of nations. More and more, new industries are based on knowledge and high levels of skills. There is ample evidence that shows that successful nations are the nations with educated citizens. Diversified curricula with high standards of learning, morality and accountability will increase public satisfaction with Indonesia's schools.

Indonesian present curriculum is overcrowded and overloaded with subject matters. It needs to be simplified. The efforts of teachers and students to cover too many subject matters will lead to the neglect of deeper learning. As human knowledge grows, it becomes more and more necessary to learn how to learn and to understand the major concepts by which knowledge is organized. The curriculum has to focus on fewer concepts to achieve greater depth of understanding.

The goals of learning to do and learning to relate to others require a more active approach to learning. Although some students seem to thrive on mastering large bodies of facts and passed pencil-and-paper exams, the great majority learn by being active and drawing on their experience. In reality, all students benefit from an active approach that presents students with questions and problems to be formulated and solved.

Learning to relate to others and 'learning to be' have particular relevance for Indonesian education. As well as learning to know and to do, Indonesia's citizens of the future must learn to develop a strong work ethics and to lead moral and healthy lives. Reform must strengthen these aspects of learning throughout the whole curriculum

The present national curriculum does not allow and cater sufficiently for the diversity of the Indonesian societies. A reformed curriculum must leave more scope for locally developed curriculum. But local curriculum must also fit harmoniously with national standards and national priorities. A dynamic balance then must continuously be searched between 'similarities' and 'differences' for the realization of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

In order to implement lifelong learning, it is proposed to:

1. Develop a national competency-based curriculum and assessment framework designed to maintain unity and allow for diversity;
2. Develop systems of public accountability and quality assurance that will increase public satisfaction with education;
3. Decentralize aspects of management in order to make the best use of the available resources.

The national competency-based curriculum will be a framework that sets out what students are expected to achieve in each grade. Each level of competency will be a step in students' progress towards higher levels of competence in key areas, such as moral education, language, mathematics, science, technology, social studies, arts and physical education.

The definition of student competency at each grade will be expressed in general terms. They will therefore allow for provincial and local differences in subject matters as well as for differences in local facilities and students' abilities. But, it will always be possible for students, schools, districts and provinces to measure their own performances against national standards of competence.

The framework will include reformed methods of assessing students' achievements. It will provide ways to strengthen teachers' abilities in the assessment of classroom activities. It will also continue to provide for examinations at key grade levels, based on the competencies expected of students. And it will enable regular monitoring of and research into the achievements of the national education system.

The information gathered by these means will be helpful to parents, the public and policy-makers. It will give parents a clearer picture of their children's progress. It will give communities and the public at-large an indication of the quality of the education system. Moreover, it will provide policy-makers the evidence needed on which to systematically improve the quality of the education system.

To make the most of the curriculum's flexibility, there will be a planned introduction of school-based management concepts and principles. This will allow schools to choose and decide the best ways on the effective utilization of the available resources in meeting their particular needs, policies and priorities.

The foundations of reform in universal education explore and empower the potentials and talents of children based on the four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, and learning to live together, to live with others.

The incorporation of the four pillars of learning into the curriculum means that the curriculum should be based on basic competencies as already mentioned above. A competency is a statement of what a student should be able to do consistently in a distinctive part of the curriculum and at a specified grade level. It shifts the emphasis from what is in the syllabus to what information a student has learnt and is able to do accordingly. The teacher and student therefore know what has to be achieved and how the effectiveness of the learning can be assessed. In language learning, for example, the syllabus sets out what grammar and other skills are to be taught whereas the competency states how well students should be able to write using the grammar they have been taught. Designing the curriculum as a framework of competencies has two advantages. First, it puts a clear emphasis on learning, i.e. information acquired is for formation, reformation, and transformation of perceptions and personalities Second, it is flexible which gives plenty of rooms to learn and to re-learn lifelong.

Competencies can be set out as a framework within which the subject matters can be flexible. Some competencies, such as many in mathematics, will involve knowledge and skills that are common to all schools everywhere. But other competencies can be achieved using subject matter that suits the nature and resources of a province, district or locality. Students in geography, for example, can practice the skills of geographical investigation (the competency) by studying the details of their local industries (the content). Competencies also allow for elective studies and extension studies to be included systematically in the curriculum.

The subjects to be included in the reformed curriculum will be an important topic for public discussion and debate. There is a lot of public dissatisfaction with the large number of subjects in the present curriculum. There is too much details to be memorized (overdose) and not enough focus on understanding and analysis. The curriculum, like a plant, must be pruned to its essentials so that it will be more robust and fruitful.

It must be recognized that the most enduring results of learning are the ability to think, to communicate (to live together), to act ethically (to live with others) and to go on learning. The curriculum has to provide space not only for acquiring knowledge but also for developing those enduring abilities. The subjects must therefore be pared down to the essential knowledge. Furthermore, they must take the local conditions into account so that they are relevant to the daily lives of all students.

The designers of the reformed curriculum will be guided by public debates on these pertinent issues. Do people agree that the curriculum should be simpler and allow for deeper learning? Are there subjects that should be cut down or perhaps combined? Do learning in pair and small groups help the development of empathy and cooperative spirit? Do the learning programs designed to inculcate the sense that in this interdependent world, we must compete in order to cooperate and cooperate in order to compete? Curriculum framework should endeavor to find the right balance between cooperation and competition.

The national framework of competencies will by its nature enable standards to be developed at key points in students' progress through the various elements of the curriculum over the twelve years of schooling. Standards summarize the typical performances of students in specific parts of the curriculum at a certain grade level. Data from national examinations, tests and surveys, combined with international data will be used to establish standards. Expected standards of moral behavior, civic behavior and work ethics will also be included.

The purpose of establishing standards is to improve the overall quality of education for all Indonesians. All schools will be expected to reach and where possible to exceed the standards. The reforms in curriculum, assessment, teacher development and school management will support these efforts.

It is recognized, however, that the facilities and the learning materials available to schools are varied and often very limited. Provinces and districts, therefore, need standards that are realistic and relevant to them and that will guide schools in their task of achieving national standards.

H. Conclusion

The Administration's education reform agenda is comprised of nine components, many of which would be implemented after the New Education Law is approved by the parliament. In this proposed new Education Law, accountability and high Standards has to be proved by all level of institutions from the central down to school levels. The central office, province, districts, and schools must be accountable for ensuring that all students, including disadvantaged students, meet high academic standards. The central government must develop a system of sanctions and rewards to hold districts and schools accountable for improving academic achievement. The competency-based curriculum is designed in order to increase high standards of students and provide skills and knowledge for coping with changes in the knowledge age.


Name: Dr. Ella Yulaelawati

Education Background : Ph. D. (Education) - University of
Queensland, Australia.

Present Position: Deputy Director of Pre-Primary and
Primary School Curriculum & Project
Manager of Curriculum Development
National Office Of Research and
development Ministry of National Education
Republic of Indonesia

Work Experience: Related Employment History
Secondary Teacher (1981-1982)
Curriculum writer & research (1983-present)

Copyright © 2002 ONEC. All rights reserved.